Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Footloose in Kathmandu (Nepal post 2017-04)

Kathmandu view northeast from Thamel district from roof of Moonlight Hotel, Paknajol Marg (road).
Oh oh, something has happened, Kathmandu is a big city now. And as of late 2017, it looks like a construction zone. Buildings are being razed and replaced, or rebuilt within their historic facades. Scaffolding, piles of brick, concrete mixers, and dust are everywhere. The 2015 earthquakes caused terrible damage to historic sites, but the palaces and temples are slowly being repaired. I think Kathmandu is on a cusp or transition from an old Asian city into a new commercial city. We will take a short walk around town; no real theme, just a tourist exploring, smelling, watching, and enjoying.
Rooftop laundry, Thamel district.
Families live in older-looking multi-floor buildings. I am not sure how they responded to the earthquakes. Did engineers inspect each and every house?
An old, but still maintained and used, English Cemetery is near the UK Embassy. For over a century, the Empire did not have an ambassador, but instead had a Resident. He consulted with the Nepali government and had some of the duties of a true ambassador. The cemetery contains graves of some of these ambassadors as well as their families and the occasional English traveler and mountaineer. And, most unusual, there are Russians here, possibly refugees from the Bolsheviks.
Workers still demolish buildings the old way, by hand. No hard hats, eye protection, or steel toe boots here.
The wiring at the Chasibari Marga area is somewhat of a mess. Well, all the wiring in Kathmandu is a mess. You see the same in Hanoi.
Despite the construction and commerce, the gents still have time to sit, play chess, smoke, and gossip.
Chhetrapati area, Kathmandu, October 2017
Near Asan Chowk, Kathmandu, October 2017.
Whatever you may think of the state of the infrastructure, it does not deter people from shopping, trading, selling, shoving, walking, eating, yelling, and sort-of sniffing the fumes. I see crowds like this in cities such as Arusha, Athens, Rangoon, Cairo, Lodz, or Mandalay. Why are American cities like Jackson such deserted wastelands?
The Asan Chowk (or marketplace) is always interesting. This where you can buy spices, vegetables, fruits, legumes, dried fish, salt, and other consumables. Chickens and meats are sold somewhere else, but I am not sure where. In Nepal, Muslim men often work as butchers. I have written about the Chowk before, and it remains as much fun as ever.

This is the 4th in a series on my 2017 Nepal trip. To be continued....

These photographs were taken with a Leica IIIC 35mm camera with 50mm f/2.0 Summitar lens on Kodak TMax 100 and 400 film, exposure measured with a Gossen Luna Pro Digital light meter. The film was developed in Xtol developer by Praus Productions, Rochester, New York.

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Mississippi Delta 25: Avon

Avon is an unincorporated community - really just a cluster of houses and a big cotton gin - off  Highway 1 in Washington County, Mississippi. It is only 12 miles south of Greenville, and most travelers on Hwy. 1 probably rush on by. One cold December day, I had been birding and found myself in Avon. The light was soft and mellow, a roll of Ektar 25 was in my camera, and I could not resist documenting some more of the Delta.
The Maddox Grocery was closed, but it may be a worthwhile stop during a work day to sample some of the bar-b-que.
The Avon Depot looks like a railroad depot, but I did not see any evidence of old tracks here.
This drainage ditch off Riverside Road is typical of the state of infrastructure in the USA. What has happened to us?
A bit further east on Riverside Road was this closed and abandoned restaurant.
Avon Gin was a big complex of warehouses and sheds, with a lone shotgun house on their property.
A short distance south, Possum Ridge Road joins Rte. 1. A lone farm workers' house sits in a field. This photograph was at dusk, with an exposure of 1 sec. at f/8.0.
I photographed this same little house in 2005 with black and white film. At that time, there was a child's bicycle inside and some old signs.

The color photographs are from the long-discontinued Kodak Ektar 25 film. Mine expired in 1995, but it has been frozen all these years and seems to be fine. The Ektar 25 works especially well in soft light, drizzle, or snow, and the contrasty palette brings out colors. It was the finest-grain color negative film ever made and benefited from careful technique and top-grade lenses. I exposed it in my tripod-mounted Hasselblad 501CM camera with 80mm CB and 50mm CF lenses. I scanned the negatives in a Minolta Scan Multi medium format film scanner using SilverFast software. The 2005 frames are from Kodak Panatomic-X film.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Gone Forever: Smith Hall at the Bonner Campbell Institute, Edwards, Mississippi

The Bonner Campbell Institute or college, formerly the Southern Christian Institute, is west of Edwards, Mississippi, along Old U.S. Highway 80 (once known as the Dixie Overland Highway). The college was one of the early institutions in America dedicated to educating African Americans during the era when most southern states did not consider them worthy of education. I have written about the Bonner Campbell before. Late January, while driving west on Old U.S. Highway 80, I saw that the handsome pillared building known as Smith Hall was totally gone. This motivated me to scan my 2010 film negatives and share the photographs.

The Southern Christian Institute was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. A Vicksburg friend, Ms. Nancy Bell, who is director of the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation, did the survey work and wrote the descriptive text. She confirmed that at that time, the buildings were in good condition. The following text is from the official description:

"The Southern Christian Institute (SCI) is situated on 53.6 gently rolling acres at 18449 Old U.S. Highway 80 near Edwards in western Hinds County. The property is rectangular in shape and has 1,434 feet of frontage along the south side of Highway 80 and a maximum depth of 1,776 feet. The campus' seven buildings are situated to either side of a roadway that runs perpendicular to Old Highway 80, and these buildings are linked by concrete walks. The one and two-story structures are constructed of rusticated concrete block, brick, and stucco. Also on the campus are a bell tower and a water tower, and other amenities include a swimming pool and a playground. There are mature pecan, live oak, and cedar trees scattered throughout the property.

In 1882, SCI purchased the plantation of Col. McKinney L. Cook and immediately began repairing the existing buildings, which included the c. 1853 Greek Revival mansion house, a two-story, frame, five-bay, center hall structure with hip roof and two-tiered, full-width gallery. Within five years, a two-story classroom building, a small bam, and two two-room tenant houses were constructed. In 1891, an addition was made to the original plantation mansion to house a girls' dormitory, and over the next 44 years, numerous buildings were constructed, including dormitories, a president's house, a teachers' home, industrial building, and classroom building, in addition to auxiliary buildings such as a grain house, stables, buggy shed, and laundry building.

The campus presently includes seven buildings: the president's house, administration/ classroom building with auditorium, an assembly hall, dormitories, cafeteria, and a multipurpose building that was constructed in 2000. The old Cook mansion was destroyed by fire around 1970, and all that remains is a chimney, which stands on the north end of the campus. The existing historic resources were built by the students during the first 35 years of the 20th century, and many reflect the Colonial Revival style that was popular during that period."
I had always admired this building from the road. When I photographed it in 2010, it has suffered some vandalism, but the building looked sound and the asbestos roof seemed intact.  From the official description:

"Smith Hall Girls' Dormitory 1915 Colonial Revival. Facing west, this building is a two-story, U-shaped, stucco-over-metal lathe, dormitory building (15,412 s.f.) on a raised rusticated concrete block basement with an asbestos covered hip roof. Several colors of asbestos tiles were used to spell out "1914 Smith Hall" on the west side of the roof. There is a two-tiered porch that extends across two thirds of the front fa$ade and over one-third of the north side. This porch is covered by an asphalt-shingled hip roof, with exposed rafter tails, which is supported by tapered stuccoed wooden columns (on the second floor) resting on rusticated concrete block."
Approximate location where Smith Hall once stood (digital photograph).
Allison Hall, the cafeteria complex, has also been demolished.

"Allison Hall (Stanton Hall, Cafeteria) 1909 Colonial Revival influence. Facing east, Allison Hall is built in two sections: the rear section is a two-story square and the front section is a long, one-story, rectangular building. The front section is constructed of rusticated concrete block and topped with an asphalt hip roof. There are ten bays on the main facade: two 2/2 double-hung wooden windows, a single-leaf glazed wood door with a sidelight and transom (configuration of this entry was originally double-leaf with a transom), and two 2/2 double-hung wooden windows."
This building is still standing, but I was unable to check it during my recent visit.

"Administration/Classroom Building 1926. The Administration/ Classroom Building, which faces west, is a two-story, brick, rectangular classroom building on a raised stuccoed basement and crowned by a gable roof with parapeted end walls. A three-bay, gabled, projecting pavilion is in the center of the main facade. There are nine bays on the front facade: four large multi-light, metal, louvered windows; two pair of non-historic, double-leaf doors with covered transoms; and a central pair of non-historic double-leaf doors flanked by multi-light metal louvered windows. A wide concrete band separates the first and second floors and another accents the cornice. The second floor windows have plain concrete lintels. There is an additional wide concrete band that runs across the gable end of the cross gable, above which is a pair of fixed six-light windows with a shaped concrete head mimicking a hood mold."
"Bell Tower 1926. The bell tower is a two-tiered brick structure with an asbestos-shingled hip roof having exposed rafter tails. Brick piers support a wide concrete platform on which brick piers support the roof, which is trimmed by a wide concrete cornice. The bell hangs from the upper tier's ceiling."

Dear Readers, this is how we lose out architectural heritage.

The 2010 black and white photographs were taken on Kodak Panatomic-X film with a Fuji GW690II medium-format 6×9 camera, tripod-mounted. The film was developed in Rodinal 1:50 and scanned with a Minolta Scan multi film scanner.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Mouldering Away: the Elks Club Lodge 148, Greenville, Mississippi

For at least 20 years, when I passed through Greenville, I admired this stately building at 504 Washington Avenue. The imposing structure of Greek temple appearance, like many banks of the era, was intended to convince viewers of classical architecture, permanence, and the prosperity of its proprietors/builders/owners.
Card 90710, Cooper Postcard Collection, Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH)  
Card 90936, Cooper Postcard Collection, MDAH.
Card 91689, Cooper Postcard Collection, MDAH
The 1906 Neoclassical-styled building is attributed to architect Patrick Henry Weathers, according to a Mississippi Department of Archives and History fact sheet.
The only recent information I could find was a 2016 article by Suzassippi in Preservation Mississippi about how Mississippi Action for Community Education (M.A.C.E), owner of the building, was trying to secure funding.
The grand entrance stairway is gone, replaced by two opposing narrow stairs under the overhang. The concrete limestone block lower surround was also removed for unknown reason. Let's hope this structure can be saved.

2014 photographs taken with a Fuji GW690II medium-format camera on Kodak Panatomic-X film, developed in Rodinal 1:50. I scanned the negatives with a Minolta Scan Multi medium format film scanner operated with Silverfast Ai software.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Mississippi Basin Model Update 2017: Some Tender Loving Care

The Corps of Engineers' Mississippi Basin Model, in Buddy Butts Park, Jackson, is finally receiving some tender loving care, thanks to The Friends of the Mississippi River Basin Model. Volunteers are clearing away trees, underbrush, and jungle. The City of Jackson provides dumpster trucks to haul away the trees and material that the volunteers drag out to the road. It is a major effort considering the decades that the site was neglected. Eventually, some interpretive signs will be posted and educational programs will be offered.
Most of the buildings are in poor condition and have been looted of any remaining instruments or technical equipment. Some of the roofs have collapsed.
This catwalk goes over an impressive sump. The brick building in the back housed pumps. I think some of the pumps refilled a water tower, whose purpose may have been to provide constant pressure water to various manifolds, which in turn directed water to specific sections of the model.
A couple of corrugated utility buildings are standing, but some of the wood structures have collapsed.
Poison ivy has taken over. I need to be especially careful when I help out on the clean-up days.

Some earlier articles about the Basin Model (click to see the articles):

These photographs are on Kodak TMax 100 film, exposed at ISO 80 and developed by Praus Productions in XTOL developer. I used a compact Olympus Trip 35 camera, a tiny thing with a selenium photocell exposure metering system and an excellent 40mm f/2.8 Tessar-type lens.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Photographing Decay with the Olympus Trip 35 (Good Things in Tiny Packages)

The Olympus Trip 35 is a compact 24×36mm-format point-and-shoot camera that was sold in the millions in the 1970s and 1980s. The specifications are pretty modest, but it takes amazingly good photographs when you use fine grain film. With the recent revival in film photography, the Trip 35 has become somewhat of a cult classic because it is compact, has a precision feel (like most Olympus cameras), and is fun to use. Prices range from about $30 to over $100, depending on condition. Sure, it is no Leica, but for many situations, the negatives from this Olympus are highly satisfying.
As you can see, this is a simple device. Film winding is via a wheel on the back. Exposure is automatic, controlled by a selenium meter that is coupled to the aperture and shutter. If the light is too low, a red flag pops up in the finder to tell you that the shutter button is locked.

The 40mm f/2.8 lens consists of 4 elements in 3 groups, so it is probably a Tessar-type optic. Tessars have been in use for a century. Because of the limited number of glass-air surfaces, they are resistant to flare and are contrasty. And they have a characteristic that is sometimes called edge effect, where density builds up at abrupt feature edges on the negative. This gives the appearance of enhanced sharpness. Wide open, at f/2.8, the sides of a frame are not too sharp, but stopped down, the scene is uniformly crisp (examples below). The lens is not as well corrected as a 6- or 7-element Sonnar- or Summicron-type lens, but those are much more expensive and complicated designs.
This little Olympus has limitations:
  1. There are only two shutter speeds: 1/40 sec and 1/200 sec. The camera sets them for you based on the amount of light, but if you turn the aperture dial off "A" to one of the f-stops, the shutter is 1/40.
  2. The light meter, being a selenium cell, does not have low-light capacity. The selenium cell (behind the bubbly plastic) surrounds the lens. If you want a low-light camera, you need one with a battery-powered CDS or SBC cell.
  3. The viewfinder does not have a focus aide, so you need to estimate the distance. The lens has some symbols to help you, such as a mountain or a person. Really, it is not difficult. Millions of photographers in the 1970s and 1980s successfully used the little Rollei 35 cameras with their zone focus lenses.
  4. The filter size is a unique 43.5mm fine pitch. Why did Olympus do this? Filters are very hard to find, and they do not screw in easily.
  5. For some unknown reason, hoods are rare in the USA. I had to order one from a UK vendor, and it cost as much as the camera did.
Regardless of these limitations, this Olympus is fun. I always used manual cameras, where I set aperture, shutter speed, and focus myself. With this little Trip 35, you can leave the focus at infinity (the mountain symbol), raise the camera to frame, and snap away.  It is so simple, so liberating. But I noticed I still carry it in the same way as my bigger cameras: left hand cradling the lens and right hand holding the right side and index finger on the shutter button. Solid grip, no breathing, and careful press.
11th Street (Route 66), Tulsa, Oklahoma
Route 66, Canute, Oklahoma

Here are two examples of Trip 35 photos taken on Kodak BW400CN film in bright sunny conditions. I used a polarizing filter to darken the sky.
Gray Street (Route 66), McLean, Texas
The lens has some barrel distortion, as shown by the curved sidewalk in the picture of the historic Phillips 66 gasoline station in McLean, Texas. Software could correct it, but I left it just as scanned.
Warehouse, Mississippi Basin Model, Jackson
Pump house, Mississippi Basin Model, Jackson
The long-neglected hydraulic model of the Mississippi River basin in Buddy Butts Park, Jackson, is finally being cleaned by the Friends of Mississippi River Basin Model volunteer group. The buildings are good examples of texture, patterns, and shapes. Here I used TMax 100 film under contrasty conditions. Again, no complaints about this Olympus lens!
Country store, Hwy 457 east of Pattison, Mississippi.
At low light, you can see the limitations of this Olympus. The picture of an old country store near Pattison was low contrast with some flare around the tree branches. The shutter speed would have been 1/40 sec and probably close to f/2.8. Good, but not Leica quality. Still, I will test the Trip 35 some more to learn its limitations, and I have not yet tried color negative film. Its tiny size makes it a good travel camera if you need to pack light. If any of you readers want to experiment with film photography, a Trip 35 or one of the many other compact Japanese rangefinder cameras from the 1970s or 1980s is an inexpensive way to get started. Write me and I will be glad to help.

For more information, the 35MMC blog reviewed the Trip 35 as well as many other compact cameras of the 1970s and 1980s. A blog by Peter Vis has a description of a tear-down.

This is the tenth article in my irregular series on tools for photographing decay. Previous articles (click the links):

Decay with the Leica camera
Decay with the Rolleiflex TLR camera
The Leica IIIC camera
Kodak Panatomix-X film
Fomapan 100 Classic film
The 35mm Super Takumar lens
Decline of an industrial giant: Eastman Kodak
Ilford XP-2 film
Kodak Ektar 25 film